Law entrenches polluter-pay principle and will generate billions for environmental protection
TORONTO — Ontario's Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act will make an important contribution to greenhouse gas reduction, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.
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The new law establishes a cap-and-trade carbon pricing system and sets out GHG reduction targets of 15, 37 and 80 per cent below 1990 emission levels for 2020, 2030 and 2050, respectively.
"The legislation is certainly ambitious," said David Suzuki Foundation climate policy analyst Gideon Forman. "In recent years, California's covered emissions were mandated to drop by about two per cent each year. Ontario's targets are set to decrease emissions by about twice that amount."
Forman added, "For years we've called for a polluter-pay system. With the passage of this act, polluters will be paying nearly $2 billion a year — and that money will buy some extraordinary environmental protection, not to mention a great many jobs."
Detractors have criticized the cap-and-trade program because it means additional costs for home heating and running a car. The Foundation believes the added expenses — about $5 per month for heating and 4.3 cents per litre on gasoline — are reasonable and will encourage energy conservation.
"Scientists tell us that the bulk of fossil fuels need to be left in the ground. Carbon pricing gives individuals and business an incentive to use less so these fuels can indeed remain buried," Forman said.
The cap-and-trade system is projected to raise about $1.9 billion annually, which must be spent on initiatives to reduce climate change. A leaked version of the province's climate plan suggests these could include grants to help homeowners replace natural gas heating with geothermal heat pumps, rebates for drivers who purchase electric automobiles and money for municipalities that want to build bike lanes.
The David Suzuki Foundation provided input into the new law by urging the province to curtail the number of free emissions permits given to industry. In the end, the government decided to offer many businesses free permits for four years.
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Climate Change Policy Analyst
David Suzuki Foundation